Devon Petersen in best place mentally as he targets World Championship return
"I don't think it will be long before I'm knocking on the door at the end of tournaments."
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 30/07/19 3:11pm
Devon Petersen insists he's in the best place he could possibly be mentally as he targets a World Championship return later this year.
'The African Warrior' equalled his best ever Ally Pally showing 12 months ago and his run to the last 16 saw him retain his PDC Tour Card in last-gasp fashion.
Petersen, who formed part of Sky Sports' commentary team at the 2019 World Matchplay, also registered his highest televised average in last month's World Cup of Darts and he's in positive spirits ahead of the second half of the season.
"2019 is definitely leaps and bounds better than 2018 already. I'm consistently chucking between mid-90 to 100 averages which is great," Petersen told Sky Sports.
"I'm not winning tournaments as of yet but I'm building my confidence and continuing to make strides forward. I'm in the best place I could possibly be mentally and I think I am going from strength-to-strength.
"I don't think it will be long before I'm knocking on the door at the end of tournaments. I'm just accepting what I'm achieving and continuing to grow and understand that it's all a process, it's not going to be overnight.
"I changed my throw 18 to 24 months ago but now we're at a point where I've gone through the dark days and now the brighter days are ahead of me."
Petersen embarked on the annual pilgrimage to Alexandra Palace needing to win at least two matches to retain his Tour Card, which appeared an unlikely prospect given that he failed to progress beyond the last 32 of a PDC ranking event in 2018.
Nevertheless, the 32-year-old followed up a sudden-death win over Wayne Jones with an extraordinary comeback from two sets down to defeat Ian White, then seeing off Steve West before succumbing to eventual semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall in the last 16, to mark his best run in a PDC ranking event since July 2017.
"I think that was probably the biggest moment of my career," admitted Petersen.
"When I started at last year's Worlds I needed to go on a last 16 run and considering the year that I had, it seemed virtually impossible. It was like climbing up a mountain, literally vertical on a glass surface with no shoes on.
"It was a dream come true for me and I know how hard I worked to get there. When I was playing I knew there was no way I could panic and think about anything else. All I needed to do was perform and I'm glad that it happened the way it did, because nothing was given to me."
"I think the World Championship has made me believe I still have the talent; I still have the capabilities of playing against the best in the world and competing at a high level. It's given me the confidence I needed and the boost that I needed - hence the way I am feeling now," he added.
Petersen may not have got the results his performances have merited this term, but he did reach the quarter-finals of Players Championship 20 in Barnsley, just days before the Matchplay began.
"The interest in the sport has increased and we've seen a bigger amount of youth players come on board and we now have 8,000 players in South Africa so it's all moving in the right direction."
Petersen on darts in South Africa
He also led South Africa to a famous victory over sixth seeds Northern Ireland at last month's World Cup, before posting his highest televised average of 101.09 in his singles victory over New Zealand in round-two.
South Africa were edged out by the Kiwis as Petersen and his partner Vernon Bouwers were beaten 4-2 in a doubles decider, but the two-time World Cup quarter-finalist admits it's a dream come true to represent his country on the global stage.
"Everybody wants to be on that stage and we can only have two people representing a country of about 50+ million.
"When I'm representing South Africa in the World Cup I know how big that is for our country and that just gets kids involved and the youth and the development, as well as enhancing the experience for playing in South Africa once we start to achieve what we're achieving."
The passion for darts within South Africa was illustrated in a social media video that went viral following their win over Northern Ireland.
To win the first round of the World Cup of darts is amazing but to see what it means to youth players in Mitchell’s Plain ........PRICELESS #darts #worldcupdarts #youth @UnicornDarts @OfficialPDC @theruddgroup @MorrisonsPubNZ @DartsNArts @mtfupofficial pic.twitter.com/eQql6elPdf— Devon Petersen (@devon_petersen) June 7, 2019
It showed a group of youth players from Mitchells Plain - Petersen's hometown, celebrating wildly as their hero sank the winning double and 'Dancing Devon' insists the sport is going from strength-to-strength back home.
"Two or three years ago I started the Last Man Standing event and I think there was 5,000 members," Petersen said.
"The interest in the sport has increased and we've seen a bigger amount of youth players come on board and we now have 8,000 players in South Africa so it's all moving in the right direction.
"We've just agreed with the amateur body in South Africa to partner up with them and allow their players to play in our tournaments.
"That will give players more opportunities and more experience of emulating what we do on the PDC circuit and doing it in South Africa. It's laying the foundations for the academies, like the JDC (Junior Darts Corporation) that you see in the UK.
"The PDC fundamentally is the catalyst for this growth because obviously everybody sees it as the carrot - we're going to play on stage, we're going to play on TV, play against the best players in the world and represent our country.
"I think in years to come I am sure we will have more players on the Pro Tour and competing against the best in the world from Africa and South Africa. Darts in South Africa is in a great spot and we can go from strength-to-strength," he added.
However, Petersen's attention now turns towards the second half of the season, where the tournaments come thick and fast. The 32-year-old is in contention to qualify for the Players Championship Finals in November, but he's currently just under £2,000 adrift of qualification for the World Championship, which remains his primary focus.
"I'm finding my feet and my confidence again so a big thing for me is the World Championship because I know the platform it can give you, it gives you opportunities to jump up the rankings a lot quicker than most other tournaments.
"If I can make as many majors as I can and play well, the world ranking will take care of itself and fingers crossed in 2021 or 2022 I will be a world champion and this conversation will be very different.Devon Petersen was speaking to Sky Sports' Josh Gorton. Join us for coverage of the World Grand Prix from Dublin. The unique Double in, Double out format will be held from October 6-12 at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin, with live coverage on Sky Sports Action.